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It’s easier to tell when someone’s lying than you might think

Think back on your week. Were you entirely honest with everyone, or was there a little fib in there somewhere?

How about those closest to you? Do you think everyone you’ve come in contact with this week has been entirely honest? The simple answer is probably not. Most people lie every once in a while for any number of reasons, but there are ways to figure out when they’re lying to you.

Up until now, humans have only been 50 percent accurate at detecting a liar. But that’s about to change, thanks to new computer software created by researchers at the University of Michigan. By showing it 118 clips of people telling lies, they were able to teach the program how to spot a liar with 75 percent accuracy. It all comes down to picking up on a series of gestures or “tells” as you might call them in a poker game.

Think you can beat the machine? Here are the eight most common tells associated with lying. After reading them, see if you notice any when talking with friends or loved ones tonight.

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how to tell someone is lying
Image: Design via Tiffany Egbert/SheKnows; Image via Getty Images

1. Gesticulating with their hands

According to the Michigan study, liars have a hard time keeping their hands still. They’ll either gesticulate with them while talking, or absent-mindedly fidget with them when they’re not. While people telling the truth do this too, it’s a much smaller number compared to those who are lying.

2. Their breath pattern changes

When you’re lying, you become more aware of what your body is doing, because you don’t want to give anything away. However, breath is the easiest thing to forget about. Behavioral analyst Dr. Lillian Glass told SheKnows that liars either hold their breath or breathe heavily because “they’re trying to convince you that they’re sincere” and the lying is making them anxious.

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3. Holding eye contact

You might think that liars would have trouble meeting someone’s gaze, but in fact the opposite appears to be true. According to the study, 70 percent of the liars looked directly into the eyeballs of the questioner. This may be an intimidation tactic, or simply overcompensating comfort to make room for the lie.

4. They don’t say much

Dr. Glass writes in her book, The Body Language of Liars, “If you ever watch the videotaped interrogation of a suspect who is guilty, you will often observe that it becomes more and more difficult for her to speak.” This may be because nerves are drying out their mouths, or they’re simply afraid of saying anything more that will incriminate them.

5. Covering body parts

We cover vulnerable areas, like our heart, stomach and throat when we feel nervous and/or threatened.

6. Saying “um” and “uh”

We often use words like these to fill time when we don’t know where we’re going with a story. True, it’s not always because we’re lying, but liars do tend to pad their speech more than those who are telling the truth. This goes double for liars who talk excessively to try to cover a lie.

7. Rapid head movements and/or covering of the mouth

“Sometimes [liars’] heads cock to the side. It’s like they’re unsure of themselves. They’re not feeling confident,” says Dr. Glass. This is also sometimes followed by an instinctive covering of the mouth as if to stop themselves from responding.

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8. Standing incredibly still

Someone standing still, staring at you is not only creepy, but it also can be indicative of a liar. While some liars fidget, others respond to the anxiety of lying by standing very still, as if they’re challenging their interrogator. Glass writes in her book that “this may be a sign of the primitive neurological ‘fight,’ rather than the ‘flight,’ response, as the body positions and readies itself for possible confrontation.” It’s as if they’re standing there saying, “I dare you to call me a liar.” I think we know a few politicians who’ve pulled that move. In contrast, she told SheKnows, “When you’re in flight, that means you’re going to look away from a person. Your feet are going to be pointed in the opposite direction.”

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

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Image: Jeremy Woodhouse/Holly Wilmeth/Getty Images

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